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Today I am having a chat with Simon Woodcock from Man with a Camera.. I chose to kick off this series of chats with Simon because he, like me, runs his own show, is a great guy,(again like me) and has a wealth of experience as an Event Photographer in Melbourne.

So Simon, a bit of history if you wouldn’t mind.

Currently I’m an event photographer servicing the Melbourne region specialising in large corporate events for organisations that you are most likely to have heard about – the likes of Telstra, Microsoft, SAP & Adidas.

Previously I have worked as a wedding photographer, and still shoot a small number of weddings each year under a separate brand.

Before committing to photography as a full time career move, I lived in London and worked in newspaper and magazine publishing as a picture editor.  Commissioning photography, managing budgets and working with top flight photographers on a range of popular publications was a great experience and helped steer me into the area I work today. I really enjoyed the work but had reached the stage where I wanted to be the one pressing the shutter button so alongside my full time role I started to photograph red carpet events, photocalls and take on small commissions for friends and family. It was a great way to gain some experience at my own pace and also keep the safety net of a salary.  The move to Australia was the ideal time to throw myself wholeheartedly into my photography business. Melbourne was very kind to me and enquiries started coming in almost immediately.

I am interested in your thoughts as what makes a good event photographer.

It’s funny, but I think what makes a good event photographer, is less about the camera and equipment (although you do need to have quality professional equipment if you want to produce consistent and high quality work) and more about the photographer as a person.  I find that clients want a photographer who suits their corporate event, awards night or party and becomes one of their team. I like being a team player and have been known to help out moving tables and chairs at an event to help out the event organiser. Clients remember a photographer’s ‘can do’ attitude and relaxed but professional demeanour just as much as they remember the photos.  

Corporate clients also want a photographer who knows how to wear a shirt and pants rather than turning up in jeans and t shirt.  I know this sounds obvious, but some photographers really don’t get this aspect of acting and looking professional. Do they think the CEO is going to want them to photograph the event again next year if they’re wearing denim and they’re favourite Metallica t shirt instead of looking like an employee of an ASX200 company?

Naturally, a good event photographer also needs to be ready and capable to shoot a variety of situations, ranging from dimly lit auditoriums at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre to a formal reception at Government House, with all it’s pomp and ceremony.

Professional equipment that is well maintained and has a confident photographer behind the lens, who knows their way around the camera and peripherals without having to break out the instruction manual is another valuable skill.  There is often the need to be nimble during events to ensure that spontaneous moments are captured. Knowing how to read the room and second guess where key people might move to, are also useful skills.

What tips or hints can you give for someone planning and event.

When planning an event, take into account your guests and how they are going to enjoy it.  Select a venue that is well located rather than making it super-cool but in a terrible location outside of the CBD or far away from transport, especially if they are corporate clients you are entertaining.  Corporate guests invariably prefer a stroll from their Collins Street office over a tram or taxi ride to the venue. Sure, there may be a champagne bar at your party, but there is also often a relaxing evening at home with the family on offer too.

If planning speeches or presentations, don’t skimp on the AV team.  A quality audio visual set up is well worth the spend. An underpowered PA or dodgy microphone really won’t go down well with the executive that is representing the company or brand in front of hundreds of their industry peers so it pays to get this aspect right.

If you’re feeding your clients finger food with drinks, ensure you have catered adequately. If good food keeps coming, your clients are going to be happy to stay around chatting instead of thinking about leaving to get dinner.  Food also helps soak up the complimentary booze, which should help avoid any over indulging.

Make sure your photographer receives a schedule for the event so they are fully across your plans.  Writing a photographers brief is also useful for ensuring key moments, presentations and key executives or participants are photographed.

With the benefits of hindsight, where have you seen things go wrong? With the view that if someone reads this that is planning an event what should they keep an eye out for.

Well, like most people my hindsight is 20/20 so I can give you tips on almost every aspect of event photography and planning, but the one thing I would suggest is, don’t leave things to chance.  That goes for the audio visual side of things, so don’t rely on the venue microphone and set up without testing it out prior.

Secondly, don’t be tempted to give the task of event photography to Brian from accounts since he’s got a DSLR.  It rarely ends well. Instead, spend the money on a professional photographer and reap the benefits of quality photography that is going to make you look great within your business, but can then also be used on social media, Linkedin etc.

Finally, roughly what does event photography cost and what are the inclusions.

Event photography in Melbourne varies in cost depending on the size and location of the event, the type of  industry the client is based and also the end use of the images, but as a guide, an hourly rate ranges between $220 and $350 per hour, excluding GST.

These figures usually include the event photographers time on site at the event, editing of the images and delivery via a service such as Wetransfer or Dropbox.

Every event is unique so we’re always pleased to discuss client’s needs before providing them with a full and competitive photography quote.